(City of Kelowna)

Kelowna staff caution against 1,200-home proposal in Upper Mission

Staff say project is at odds with city policy, compromises transportation system, more

  • Feb. 27, 2021 12:00 a.m.

Kelowna city staff is waving down a proposal to place 1,200 homes on the hillside in the Upper Mission area.

City of Kelowna staff is recommending mayor and council do not support the draft Area Structure Plan (ASP) for Thomson Flats, presented by the development company WSP with Melcor Developments as the applicant.

The proposal outlines a suburban hillside development of approximately 1,200 residential units, on 631.43 acres, south and east of the existing Upper Mission and Kettle Valley neighbourhoods.

Of the units, 85 to 90 per cent are expected to be single detached homes, while the rest would be townhouses or duplexes. Three parks would be included.

WSP Global Inc. is a Canadian company with American and British roots, providing management and consultancy services to the built and natural environment. Its local office resides in Kelowna’s Landmark area.

The developers are no stranger to large projects. Included in its vast portfolio are notable landmarks such as Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands hotel, Australia’s Perth (RAC) Arena, England’s Heathrow airport, as well as 432 Park Avenue in New York City, a nearly 1400-foot condo building of which the penthouse reportedly sold for $32.4 million.

City of Kelowna staff outlined the possibility for the Thomson Flats project to exacerbate already problematic transportation issues in the area. Also, the Thomson Flats project embodies a style of development they are trying to get away from; car-dependant hillside neighbourhoods with housing affordability, climate impact, and emissions issues.

“Thomson Flats would add an additional 10-14,000 vehicle trips per day in excess of future growth already approved for the area, contributing to congestion in the immediate area and across the southern half of the city,” said staff in the report.

(City of Kelowna)

The cost to fix transportation issues in the area would not be covered by property taxes alone, ultimately driving up the infrastructure deficit, and taxes stated staff.

While this development would add housing supply, staff said it would do little to improve affordability. A study by staff showed there will be ample supply of detached homes (6,000+) in Kelowna, in the years to come.

That said, the proposal does include some positives, like the protection of natural spaces and trails, the extension of several roads and the restoration of Rembler Creek.

It also proposes the eventual construction of a school site, which would allow 210 to 300 more students in the area. However, School District 23 said a school site is needed sooner rather than later, and it is unclear when WSP would develop.

“Despite the applicant’s best efforts, staff have concluded through technical analysis and policy review that the proposal’s costs and impacts out-weight its benefits,” staff said, adding it would, “further entrench systemic land-use problems and make it harder to chart a sustainable course moving forward.”

Interior Health (IH) has also spoken out against the project, saying it, “does not contribute well to Kelowna achieving a more complete and compact community…” and rather recommended the City focus on mixed-use developments closer to town, on land that has been previously developed, “before disturbing a natural asset on the fringe of the community.”

Kelowna mayor and council will decide whether or not to endorse the draft Thomson Flats ASP on Monday, March 1.

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